Wondering what to do with old servers? Recycle, reuse or virtualize

Stephen J. Bigelow

We're not sure what to do with old servers. Should we keep and repurpose them, virtualize them or recycle them?

Today, organizations have more options than ever when disposing of older hardware. A popular option is repurposing the old server to nonproduction tasks like test and development. Chances are that even older systems are handling those tasks, so repurposing the displaced production servers usually means upgrading even older systems already in place. Similarly, old systems can be repurposed to branch offices, departmental workgroups or secondary/backup data centers -- repurpose servers any place where a freshly displaced server is newer than an existing server.

Virtualization is not a requirement for repurposing servers, but it can help by allowing greater utilization of the server's computing resources. In effect, the older server can potentially do more work once it's virtualized with a hypervisor like Hyper-V, ESXi or XenServer.

Another option is to discard the displaced servers. For example, older systems can be sold off to system resellers or refurbishers (e.g., the gray market specializing in older systems no longer available from vendors) or donated to a charity organization with computing needs. In many cases, the new system vendor will remove the displaced systems for you if you prefer – terms can easily be negotiated into purchase contracts. Finally, you always have the option to simply scrap the displaced servers, though this is the least desirable alternative, because of the waste produced.

Regardless of which option you choose to discard old servers, be sure to secure any sensitive data by scrubbing or destroying the local disks before handing the used systems over.

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